Debra Winger





5/16/1955 , Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA

Birth Name

Mary Debra Winger




This perky, throaty brunette came to acting via a route much different than those taken by most of her contemporaries. At the age of 16, she dropped out of school and went to live in a kibbutz in Israel and spent three months in the Israeli Army. She came back to America and attended California State University where she studied criminology and sociology. Once again, she dropped out and at the age of 18, became a tour guide for the Magic Mountain amusement park. She was involved in a serious accident that left her in a coma. Partially paralyzed and blinded in one eye for several months, Debra thought long and hard about where her life was going, and decided that upon recuperating she would become an actress. She did, making several commercials before being cast as Lynda Carter's little sister Drusilla on the popular Wonder Woman TV series. She appeared in several small movie roles before beating out more than 200 hopefuls for the lead in Urban Cowboy. This movie paired her with John Travolta and gave her an opportunity to demonstrate her acting ability. This arresting, star-making performance led to her casting as a homegrown, hopeful Juliet opposite Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, which earned her an Oscar nomination, and as Shirley MacLaine's cancer-stricken daughter in Terms of Endearment, for which she was Oscar-nominated again. She replaced Raquel Welch in Cannery Row, which was barely seen, and agreed to star in Mike's Murder for Urban Cowboy director James Bridges, but that muddled thriller sat on the shelf until 1984.

Debra quickly made it known that she was not interested in playing the Hollywood game and was content to let long periods go by without making movies, rather than appear in something she didn't feel strongly about. She regretted saying yes to a blatantly commercial film, Legal Eagles, that didn't show her to best advantage, but was back in form in the stylish thriller Black Widow, and made the best of an underwritten role in Costas Garvis' melodrama about white supremacists, Betrayed. Married for several years to actor Timothy Hutton, she made a cameo appearance, as a man, in his 1987 film Made in Heaven. Everybody Wins had Nick Nolte as co-star, and an Arthur Miller script, but it turned out badly. Later that year she found personal fulfillment playing a hedonist in Bernardo Bertolucci's enigmatic The Sheltering Sky (1990). Originally announced to star in A League of Their Own (1993), she backed out of the project early on, and then became uncharacteristically busy. She was terrific as Steve Martin's saucy partner in crime in Leap of Faith, then starred in three 1993 releases: the misfired comedy Wilder Napalm, A Dangerous Woman - in which she brilliantly played a retarded woman - and Shadowlands, in which she delivered an intelligent, moving (and Oscar-nominated) performance as Joy Gresham, the American poet who fell in love with British author C.S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins). This spurt of activity brought cheers from her admirers, and served as a reminder that she is one of the most gifted actresses in films. In 1995, she co-starred with Billy Crystal in Forget Paris.